For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek (Rom. 1:16).
Paul concludes his introduction by setting out the main theme of the epistle—the gospel. Although the message is one of glad tidings, it reminds us of the fact that all have sinned and fall short from the standard of God’s righteousness (Rom. 3:23). Paul shows this before he reveals that the gospel has hope and that God is able to be just and yet be the justifier of the sinner. The opening words describe Paul’s position, for I am not ashamed of the gospel. Whatever criticism might be directed against Paul and the gospel, he was proud to be associated with it. The Gentiles heaped scorn upon the message. To them, the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing (1 Cor. 1:18). As for the Jews, it was stumbling block: but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles (1 Cor. 1:23). It was an offense to their national pride.
In the face of these attitudes, Paul wrote to the Corinthians, for I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor 2:2). Here we have the safety and the secret of Paul’s success. Not only was Paul unashamed, but he called upon Timothy not to be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God (2 Tim 1:8) Paul had been shown great grace and he was the keeper and steward of great things. To be ashamed therefore never entered his mind. Paul was not ashamed of the gospel; he gloried in it. In 2 Corinthians 10:17 Paul wrote, let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.
Many in the church appear to be ashamed of the Lord and His gospel. They are ashamed and uncomfortable with sharing the gospel and being identified with Jesus Christ. Jesus said, for whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels (Luke 9:26). In 2 Timothy Paul warned the young Timothy, therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God (2 Tim. 1:8). Many are ashamed and deny Christ because of fear, peer pressure, intimidation, or political correctness. They are concerned about what others might say or think of them. They speak of all sorts of things, but they are silent concerning Jesus Christ. May God help us to speak up for Christ. Paul went on to say, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me (2 Tim. 1:11-12). Paul stood for Christ with a holy boldness because of his unwavering trust in Him. R. Kent Hughes reminds us that “we must never be ashamed! Paul said this because he knew of the human proclivity to be embarrassed or to deny what we know to be true. The wonder is that God is not ashamed of us.”1 Paul’s absolute confidence in the gospel was based on its supremacy. He knew it to be far superior to any religion or philosophy ever known on earth.
The Power of God for Salvation
For it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Here we have the reason why Paul is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. Paul preached the gospel because of its power to save sinners. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18). Two things are asserted of the gospel: first that it is powerful, and second that it is from God. Robert Mounce explains that,
“Salvation is not only initiated by God but is carried through by his power. To say that the gospel is “power” is to acknowledge the dynamic quality of the message. In the proclamation of the gospel God is actively at work in reaching out to the hearts of people. The gospel is God telling of his love to wayward people. It is not a lifeless message but a vibrant encounter for everyone who responds in faith. Much religious discourse is little more than words and ideas about religious subjects. Not so the gospel. The gospel is God at work. He lives and breathes through the declaration of his redemptive love for people. To really hear the gospel is to experience the presence of God.”2
In the gospel, words and power come together. The gospel is what God has done, does, and will do for us. The gospel is therefore a power; it doesn’t bring power or has power, but it is power. As Paul states, the gospel transforms those who believe: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17). The gospel, through the Holy Spirit, does what no amount of mere human reasoning or argumentation can do. It compels people to face the reality of their own sin and guilt, the inevitability of divine judgment, and the need for a perfect substitute to make atonement for sin if they are to survive at all. The gospel is the dynamite that blasts away self. Nothing else can do this, for nothing else is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. There is no other message in the world that has such power. This salvation is the possession of every one that believes.
The aspect of salvation being declared by Paul is deliverance from sin’s penalty. The announcement is an indication of the great news for mankind which will be outlined as the wonders of God’s grace are set out in Romans. The power is an expression of the ability of God to save. Despite the strength of sin and the power of Satan, the power of God in the gospel transcends them all. Paul’s confidence in the gospel was also based on its sufficiency.
Paul’s confidence in the gospel was finally based on its simplicity. First to the Jew, and also to the Greek. Leon Morris writes,
“The combination stands for the totality of mankind. The gospel is for all and knows no limitation by race. In the matter of salvation God puts no difference between one nation and another. Paul assigns a certain priority to the Jew but immediately balances it with his reference to the Greek.”3
As God’s chosen people, the Jews were the first to hear the gospel. Jesus said, you worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews (John 4:22). It was to the lost sheep of the house of Israel that the Messiah came to first, He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24).
The Lord came to Israel and He presented Himself to the people for acceptance. Despite rejection of the Messiah, after His resurrection and ascension, His disciples were sent to them first. To Paul, they still held that priority. To the Jews he would appeal, as if reflecting the reluctance of God to give up His earthly people. Their obstinacy and the fact that the message was universal opened wider horizons to the apostle and so to the Gentiles the message also went forth in power.
1 R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word – Romans (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1991), 26.
2 Robert H. Mounce, The New American Commentary – Romans (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 70.
3 Leon Morris, Pillar New Testament Commentary – The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2002), 66.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Christian Standard Bible. Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.
Dr. Miguel J. Gonzalez is the Founder and President of Reasons for Faith International Ministries. He served as a pastor for ten years in Charlotte, NC and has taught in churches and conferences throughout the United States. He currently hosts the Time in the Word and Truth To Live By podcasts and writes at KnowingChristianity.blogspot.com.
Copyright © 2006–2021 by Miguel J. Gonzalez Th.D. and published by Reasons for Faith International Ministries, Inc. by permission. No part may be altered or edited in any way. Permission is granted to use in digital or printed form so long as it is circulated without charge, and in its entirety. This document may not be repackaged in any form for sale or resale. All reproductions must contain the copyright notice (i.e., Copyright © 2006-2021 Miguel J. Gonzalez Th.D.) and this Copyright/Limitations notice.